The green hills that rise above
(the largest lake in England)
are still the dominion of Beatrix Potter --
the woman who helped immortalize
a particular kind of English cosiness:
of vegetable patches and garden gates
rocking chairs by the fire
and cambric tea.
Here is the garden path
that Tom Kitten tripped down.
He, and all of the other pastel products
of Beatrix Potter's imagination,
are part of Hill Top.
The popularity of those tiny tales
gave Beatrix Potter the income
to buy a house of her own.
At the age of 41,
she was finally able to break free
of the Victorian vise
of her parents' care.
Photography isn't allowed in the dim,
interior still-life of Hilltop.
This group of Japanese tourists
wielded umbrellas, not cameras.
Hilltop is like a grown-up doll's house,
furnished for one person's taste and comfort.
It has a treasure room
and dolls who were born two centuries ago.
it feels like a place preserved
by a sleeping beauty spell. . .
if only someone would just light the fire
and put the kettle on.
The books mirror the house:
Here is the spinning wheel,
the wooden dresser full of china,
the open fire,
the flagstone floor,
the gleaming grandfather clock
and the thick oriental carpet.
Eventually, Beatrix Potter
owned 4000 acres of land
in the Lake District.
Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck
by her interest in real animals,
particularly Herdwick sheep.
She left the land and the herds of sheep
to the National Trust.
Perhaps this solitary ewe,
grazing near the house,
is an heir
of one of her prize-winners.
After her father died,
Beatrix Potter bought her mother a house
in nearby Bowness.
(Today, Bowness is the home
and a dozen sweet shops.)
Mother and daughter were separated
by Lake Windermere and the hills
that rose above it;
close, but not too close.
You can drive around the lake,
but it's faster to take the ferry
or perhaps one of these little red boats
across the water.
The fog followed us
as we walked around the lake.
Not a good day for sailing . . .
the boats looked like toys
abandoned in a bathtub.
If the day is too damp
you can just admire the view
from the Old England Hotel.
The tea is served in silver pots,
with a salver of shortbread.